Posts Tagged ‘compost’
Following the successful compost workshop on Sat May 9th, our resident Compostwoman, Donna, has provided these hints and tips for the perfect compost .
What ingredients go into a good compost?
A good compost, like a good cake, is a balance of different ingredients. All compost bins, or heaps, should lie on a soil base and need a balance of materials that:
- are high in nitrogen, such as blood & bone, Dynamic Lifter or chook manure
- contain carbon, such as dried leaves or shredded newspapers, and
- contain both carbon & nitrogen, such as kitchen scraps, pea straw and green garden prunings.
In addition, the compost heap/bin needs:
- water, but only enough so that the contents are moist but not wet
- oxygen, from air, added by regularly turning over the contents of the heap
- warmth, by putting it in a sunny place.
In the next section you will find further composting hints, tips, and solutions for common problems:
- meat scraps – yes, but best to avoid.
- fish bones – yes, but mix them through the heap, rather than leaving them on top.
- old jeans (cotton-based) or old cloth nappies – yes, though cut them up first.
- office paper – not if it has been bleached or is glossy.
- old tyres – not a good idea.
- weeds – yes, if they are without seed heads. No, if they are bulbous, such as oxalis, or spread by runners, such as couch grass.
- dog & cat faecal matter – a health risk, best avoided if you use your compost for veggie plots.
- wood ashes from open fires – yes, in small amounts, but be careful if you add your compost to heavy clay soils as the ash may compound the problem.
- tree branches – shredded before adding.
- eucalyptus leaves – may take a while to decompose so run them over with a lawn mower first.
- lawn clippings – yes, but not in large quantities unless some dry matter is added at the same time, such as dried leaves or shredded newspaper. This helps prevent the clippings becoming a putrid, slimy mess.
- oranges & lemons – these are highly acidic and may take a while to break down, unless they are chopped up before adding.
- kitchen sponges – yes if they are made from cellulosic fibres and will decompose. Check the wrapper for details.
- coffee grounds and tea bags – yes, and yes – and the tiny staple on the tea-bag will eventually add a bit of iron to your soil.
- take-away pizza round cardboard containers – tear them up first and they act as carbon matter for the heap.
- left with half decomposed big lumps? Adding smaller pieces to the bin should ensure that it all decomposes evenly. Avoid avocado seeds, pineapple tops, twigs and other woody items unless they can be crushed or chopped before adding. Always crush eggshells.
- smelly? Either : Too much nitrogen containing matter and not enough carbon i.e. add more dry materials such as dried leaves and newspaper. Or: Make sure you aid decomposition by using a garden fork and turning over the heap occasionally (maybe once a week) to introduce more air. This prevents anaerobic bacteria from taking over and producing the smells.
- crawling with ants and slaters? The heap is too dry. Add a sprinkling of water or less dry matter. Ants and slaters are not harmful at all but they do indicate that your compost will not decompose rapidly enough.
- developing into biological warfare? If you get attacked by tiny flies (Drosophila) every time you open the lid, rest assured that they are there because they enjoy the contents of your bin, especially if you have been adding fruit peelings, such as apples or kiwi or pineapples. Add a blanket cover to the contents of your bin, such as hessian sacking, carpet felt underlay or the Saturday Age.
- plagued with rats/mice/blowflies or maggots? Meat scraps or fish bones can be added to the bin but only if it is working efficiently and quickly. They are best avoided since they do encourage vermin, especially over summer. Rats and mice enter the bin by digging underneath, so fasten a piece of chicken wire under the bin before commencing.
- taking so long to do anything?!!! The carbon/nitrogen ratio needs to be altered. Remember: too wet, add dry matter, such as newspaper. Too dry, add water along with some high in nitrogen compost activator, such as blood & bone or Dynamic Lifter pellets, or chook poo. And don’t forget to regularly turn the heap over!
- Green mulch- weeds, lawn clippings frit and veggie waste
- Dry materials- hay pea straw raked leaves woody weeds
- Manure – any herbivorous animal manure or plant material that is high in nitrogen eg comfrey or legumes)
- Lay a base of dry material about 1-1.5 m across and 15 cms high.
- Cover it with a layer about 3 cm thick od manure and fluff this into the dry mulch.
- Wet the pile down until quite damp.
- Cover with about 10 cm of green mulch. You could pour over a bucket of seaweed brew or compost tea at this point.
- Repeat these steps finishing with a layer of dry material.
Turning the pile
- 1st turning: 5 to 7 days – white thread like fungus present – the compost starter
- 2nd turning:10- 12 days – humus brown colour fungus has been overtaken by bacteria
- 3rd turning: 15-17 days pile almost all brown and beginning to develop crumbly texture
- 21 days earthworths and beetles present- nearly ready!
When turning break up any large clods, incorporate as much air as possible, sprinkle with water as necessary to keep it as wet as a sponge and move the outside to the inside as much as you can.